BEST OF

Best American Airlines Credit Cards of October 2022

Take a look at our top picks, then let us walk you through making the decision.

Sep 29, 2022

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American Airlines offers an array of credit cards for different varieties of American flyers — from a $0-annual-fee option for occasional travelers to a $450-a-year card with airport lounge access and a generous checked-bag benefit. American also is alone among the major U.S. airlines in offering credit cards that earn points toward elite status with every purchase. In general, the higher the annual fee, the more benefits and perks you'll get from your American Airlines credit card.

Some of our selections for the best American Airlines credit cards can be applied for through NerdWallet, and some cannot. Below, you'll find application links for the credit cards from our partners that are available through NerdWallet, followed by the full list of our picks and then a guide to choosing the right American Airlines credit card for you.

NerdWallet's Best American Airlines Credit Cards of October 2022

Best American Airlines Credit Cards From Our Partners

Our pick for

Routine American Airlines flyers

Apply now

on Citibank's application

Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite Mastercard®

4.9

NerdWallet rating 
Apply now

on Citibank's application

Annual fee

$0 intro for the first year, then $99

Intro APR

N/A

Regular APR

18.99%-27.99% Variable APR

Recommended Credit Score

Between the sign-up bonus, extra miles on some everyday purchases and cardholder perks, the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite Mastercard® offers excellent value if you frequently fly American.

Pros

  • You start with a great bonus offer, then earn 2 miles per dollar spent with American Airlines, at gas stations and at restaurants, and 1 mile per $1 spent elsewhere. You get a free checked bag for you and up to four other people on your reservation, which can more than make up for the annual fee, as well as priority boarding on domestic flights and a discount on in-flight food and beverage purchases. And you can earn a $125 flight discount if you put $20,000 on the card in a year.

Cons

  • There's no lounge access with this card, so even if you're a hardcore American Airlines traveler, you'll still be on the outside of the Admirals Club looking in.

Read full review
  • Earn 50,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles after $2,500 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening

  • Earn 2 AAdvantage® miles for every $1 spent at gas stations and restaurants, and on eligible American Airlines purchases

  • Earn 1 Loyalty Point for every 1 eligible AAdvantage® mile earned from purchases

  • Earn a $125 American Airlines Flight Discount after you spend $20,000 or more in purchases during your card membership year and renew your card

  • No Foreign Transaction Fees

  • First checked bag is free on domestic American Airlines itineraries for you and up to four companions traveling with you on the same reservation

  • Enjoy preferred boarding on American Airlines flights

Our pick for

Lounge access

Apply now

on Citibank's application

Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard®

4.9

NerdWallet rating 
Apply now

on Citibank's application

Annual fee

$450

Intro APR

N/A

Regular APR

18.99%-27.99% Variable APR

Recommended Credit Score

For road warriors wanting access to American Airlines' Admirals Club lounges, the $450 annual fee on the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard® is actually a bargain.

Pros

  • The card comes with Admirals Club membership, which usually costs $650 the first year and $600 a year afterward. And unlike with other airlines' club cards, lounge access extends to authorized users (subject to certain terms). You get a free checked bag for you and up to eight others on your reservation, VIP airport treatment (including priority boarding, priority check-in and expedited screening where available), and a fee credit for TSA Precheck or Global Entry. The sign-up bonus isn't too shabby, either.

Cons

  • The spending rewards on this card are rather weak considering its price tag. You get 2 miles per dollar spent on eligible American Airlines purchases and 1 mile per $1 elsewhere. Other airline cards offer richer rewards in everyday categories.

Read full review
  • Earn 50,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® Bonus Miles after spending $5,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening.

  • Admirals Club® membership for you and access for up to two guests or immediate family members traveling with you.

  • No Foreign Transaction Fees on purchases.

  • Earn 2 AAdvantage® miles for every $1 spent on eligible American Airlines purchases and 1 AAdvantage® mile for every $1 spent on other purchases.

  • Earn 1 Loyalty Point for every 1 eligible AAdvantage® mile earned from purchases.

  • First checked bag is free on domestic American Airlines itineraries for you and up to 8 companions traveling with you on the same reservation.

Our pick for

No annual fee

Apply now

on Citibank's application

American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp℠ Card

3.9

NerdWallet rating 
Apply now

on Citibank's application

Annual fee

$0

Intro APR

N/A

Regular APR

18.99%-27.99% Variable APR

Recommended Credit Score

For occasional but loyal American Airlines flyers, the $0-annual-fee American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp℠ Card is a cost-effective way to earn miles on everyday purchases.

Pros

  • The American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp℠ Card earns 2 miles per $1 spent at grocery stores and on eligible American Airlines purchases, and 1 AAdvantage mile for every $1 spent on other purchases. It also offers a modest sign-up bonus and — unusual for a no-annual-fee airline card — the ability to earn points toward elite status.

Cons

  • The card doesn't offer free checked bags, and its 3% foreign transaction fee is a drag if you travel internationally.

Read full review
  • Earn 10,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles and receive a $50 statement credit after making $500 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening.

  • No Annual Fee.

  • Earn 2 AAdvantage® miles for each $1 spent at grocery stores, including grocery delivery services.

  • Earn 2 AAdvantage® miles for every $1 spent on eligible American Airlines purchases.

  • Earn 1 AAdvantage® mile for every $1 spent on other purchases.

  • Earn 1 Loyalty Point for every 1 eligible AAdvantage® mile earned from purchases.

  • Save 25% on inflight food and beverage purchases when you use your card on American Airlines flights.

Full list of editorial picks: Best American Airlines credit cards

Our pick for: Routine American Airlines flyers

The Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite Mastercard® delivers offers solid value if you frequently fly American Airlines. Enjoy bonus rewards at gas stations and restaurants, a fine sign-up bonus, a checked-bag benefit, priority boarding and more. Plus, each purchase with the card earns points toward elite status. Read our review.

Our pick for: Bonus offerings

Among the highlights: A fat bonus offer you can snag with minimal effort, a checked-bag benefit, the opportunity to earn a companion fare each year by hitting a spending threshold, and points toward elite status with every purchase. Read our review. 

Our pick for: Lounge access

The $450 annual fee on this card is actually a bargain if unfettered access to Admirals Club airport lounges is what you're after. There's also a generous checked bag benefit and other goodies for frequent American Airlines flyers. Read our review.

Our pick for: No annual fee

For occasional but loyal American Airlines flyers, the no-annual-fee American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp℠ Card is a cost-effective way to earn not only miles but also credit toward elite frequent-flyer status. Read our review.

Our pick for: Business travelers

The card boasts a competitive sign-up bonus, high travel rewards and a slew of AA-specific perks. Plus, it gives extra rewards on several categories of common business purchases.  Read our review.

• • •

How to choose the right American Airlines credit card for you

By Robin Saks Frankel, NerdWallet

American Airlines is the world's largest airline, and as a member of its AAdvantage frequent flyer program, you can fly just about anywhere using its award miles, either on American itself or on one of its OneWorld partners.

The easiest way to earn AAdvantage miles is by using an American Airlines branded credit card. But American has one of the more complicated credit card lineups in the airline industry. That's because its cards are spread across two issuers, Citi and Barclays. All of the cards offer sign-up bonuses and enhanced earnings rates on American Airlines purchases, not to mention in-flight discounts on food and drink. Each also earns "Loyalty Points" toward elite status with the airline. But the cards differ significantly when it comes to annual fees and perks.

Here's a look at the most popular American Airlines consumer credit cards:

The basics at a glance

American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp℠ Card

Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite Mastercard®

AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard®

Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard®

ANNUAL FEE

$0.

$0 intro for the first year, then $99.

$99.

$450.

AMERICAN AIRLINES REWARDS

All cards:

  • 2 AAdvantage miles for each $1 spent on eligible American Airlines purchases.

  • 1 Loyalty Point (good toward elite status with American) for every $1 spent on all purchases.

OTHER SPENDING REWARDS

  • 2 miles per $1 spent at grocery stores, including grocery delivery services.

  • 1 mile per $1 on other purchases.

  • 2 miles per $1 spent at gas stations

  • 2 miles per $1 spent at restaurants

  • 1 mile per $1 spent on other purchases

  • 1 mile per $1 spent on other purchases.

  • 1 mile per $1 spent on other purchases.

CHECKED BAG BENEFIT

None.

First checked bag free for cardholder and up to 4 traveling companions on your reservation.

First checked bag free for cardholder and up to 4 traveling companions on your reservation.

First checked bag free for cardholder and up to 8 traveling companions on your reservation.

BONUS OFFER

Earn 10,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles and receive a $50 statement credit after making $500 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening.

Earn 50,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles after you spend $2,500 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening.

Earn 50,000 AAdvantage® bonus miles after making your first purchase and paying the $99 annual fee in full, both within the first 90 days.

Earn 50,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles after spending $5,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening.

In addition to these cards, Barclays has the AAdvantage® Aviator® Silver Mastercard®, which offers stepped-up rewards and perks for a higher annual fee. However, it is available only as an upgrade from the AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard®, so you'd have to apply for that card first, then request the upgrade. For more information about the AAdvantage® Aviator® Silver Mastercard®, see our review.

What's differentiates these cards from one another?

Annual fee

A notable difference among these co-branded American Airlines cards is the yearly cost of carrying them.

  • The American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp℠ Card has an annual fee of $0, making it the cheapest of the options to carry. (Of course, its perks aren't nearly as robust as those you'll find on other American Airlines cards, so it's not automatically the best choice for everyone.)

  • At the midrange, the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite Mastercard® has an annual fee of $0 intro for the first year, then $99. This essentially gives you a year to try out the card before you decide whether it's worth keeping around.

  • The AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard® is also at the midrange, with an annual fee of $99. That fee is not waived in the first year, and the card's ongoing bonus rewards aren't as varied as those on the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite Mastercard®. But it does have unique features of its own. (More on that later.)

  • The priciest card of the bunch is the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard®. It carries a hefty annual fee of $450. But in exchange for that fee, it comes with privileges that you won't get with any of these other American Airlines co-branded cards.

Rewards on non-airline spending

There's no difference among these cards when it comes to the rewards they earn on American Airlines purchases. But it's worth noting that only two of them offer double miles on spending beyond American Airlines:

  • The American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp℠ Card earns 2X miles at grocery stores.

  • The Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite Mastercard® earns 2X miles at restaurants and gas stations.

🤓Nerdy Tip

NerdWallet values American miles at 1.5 cents each. This is a baseline value, drawn from real-world data on hundreds of economy routes, not a maximized value. In other words, you should aim for award redemptions that offer 1.5 cents or more in value from your American miles.

Bonus offer

The bonus offer on the American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp℠ Card isn't a bad deal for a $0-annual-fee card: Earn 10,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles and receive a $50 statement credit after making $500 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening.

Of course, the other cards (with annual fees) offer higher bonuses:

  • Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite Mastercard®: Earn 50,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles after you spend $2,500 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening.

  • Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard®: Earn 50,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles after spending $5,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening.

  • AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard®: Earn 50,000 AAdvantage® bonus miles after making your first purchase and paying the $99 annual fee in full, both within the first 90 days. Note that this may be the easiest bonus to snag.

Baggage benefits

The stripped-down American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp℠ Card doesn't cost you anything to carry, but it also does not offer a free checked bag perk, which is a big drawback.

Both the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite Mastercard® and the AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard® offer a free checked bag for you and up to four traveling companions on your reservation. Even if you're a solo flyer who travels only once a year, this perk can easily pay for the cost of the annual fee.

The premium Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard® covers a free checked bag for you and up to eight companions traveling on your reservation. For families who travel in a pack, this can save them a bundle on baggage fees.

Other perks

Thanks to its big annual fee, the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard® comes with some perks the other cards can't match:

  • It includes Admirals Club membership, which gives access to nearly 50 exclusive airport lounges plus partner lounges worldwide. Members can bring their immediate family or up to two guests with them into the lounge. Annual membership rates for the Admirals Club depend on your status with the airline. But if you're only a member of the AAdvantage program and lack any kind of elite status, it would cost you $650 a year.

  • It comes with one statement credit per account every five years for up to $100 for either the Global Entry or TSA Precheck application fee.

But the AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard® also carries perks that you won't find among the other four:

  • It offers a way to earn a companion certificate each year once you meet a spending threshold. Terms apply.

  • It features an optional "Flight Cents" program, which lets you round up purchases to the nearest dollar and use that money to buy AAdvantage miles.

  • You'll get up to a $25 statement credit on in-flight Wi-Fi each year.

Big spenders eyeing the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite Mastercard® should note: Every cardmembership year you spend $20,000 or more on the card and renew it, you'll also get a $125 American Airlines flight discount.

All cards except for the American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp℠ Card offer some kind of early boarding privileges.

Issuers

Three of the cards — the American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp℠ Card, the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite Mastercard® and the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard® — are issued by Citibank, which means they come with features like Citi Entertainment and Citi Concierge.

The AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard® is issued by Barclays and comes with its own set of perks.

What's the same?

AAdvantage rewards on airline spending

All four cards earn AAdvantage miles at a rate of 2 miles per $1 spent on eligible American Airlines purchases.

The cards all also offer a 25% in-flight discount on food and beverage purchases.

No 0% intro APR offers — with one exception

None of the cards offers a 0% APR on purchases, so if you were hoping for a little interest-free breathing room on a big-ticket item, you're better off elsewhere.

However, the AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard® does offer an intro APR period on balance transfers. You get a 0% intro APR for 15 months on balance transfers made within 45 days of account opening. Then the ongoing APR of 18.24%, 22.24% or 27.24%, Variable APR.

Ongoing APRs among the four cards differ slightly, but not enough to be a deciding factor.

Making the choice

Someone who tends to fly alone with a carry-on and doesn't want to be bothered with an annual fee is likely best suited for the American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp℠ Card.

If you fly round-trip at least once a year with one or more travel companions, it makes sense to spring for either the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite Mastercard® or the AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard®. The first checked bag on an American flight costs $30 one-way, so the luggage fees for a round-trip flight for two will run you $120 without a free-checked-bag perk. That cost would outweigh those cards' annual fees.

If an elite experience is what you're after, and you can pledge loyalty to the American Airlines brand, the annual fee of $450 on the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard® will get you access to the exclusive Admirals Club lounge for you and your family. None of the other co-branded cards can offer that.

Keep in mind that a one-day pass to an Admirals Club lounge is $59 per person, with up to three children under 18 admitted for free if accompanied by an adult day pass visitor. A one-day pass is available at select locations. If you fly only a handful of times a year, you'll come out ahead owning a less expensive card and just buying lounge access as needed.

Other options

If you don't relish the idea of being restricted to a particular airline or you want to use your rewards on something other than flights, choose a general travel rewards card that earns points that you can use any way you'd like on flights or nights.

Consider a card like the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card. There's an annual fee, but it earns 2x back on most purchases — not just on American Airlines flights. The card also lets you redeem your earnings as statement credits for a variety of travel purchases — not just on American Airlines flights.

Last updated on September 29, 2022

Methodology

NerdWallet's credit cards team selects the best credit cards in each category based on overall consumer value. Factors in our evaluation include fees, promotional and ongoing APRs, and sign-up bonuses; for rewards cards, we consider earning and redemption rates, redemption options and redemption difficulty. A single card is eligible to be chosen as among the "best" in multiple categories. Learn how NerdWallet rates credit cards.